On Tuesday, April 16 the New Hampshire House will hold a hearing on a bill aimed at allowing swimming at non-motorized boat launches in the state.
As introduced, the bill would have allowed swimming at all non-motorized “car top” boat launches, which accommodate canoes, kayaks, small fishing boats, etc.
The Senate amended the bill, SB 160, to instead direct the Fish and Game Department to allow swimming at just five boat launches of their choosing. According to the amended bill text, “The purpose shall be to determine if swimming and cartop non-motorized boating can safely utilize a public boat access area while limiting the impact to grant funding.”
Arguments for public access
The topic of swimming at boat launches gained public attention when the TV show “Northwoods Law” included a disagreement between a conservation officer and a member of the public over swimming from the non-motorized boat launch at Connor Pond in Ossipee. According to the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, swimming is not allowed at any public boat launches.
“I’m upset about it because the public, Jessica and her family, have every bit of right as anybody else to use that water in Connor Pond. The public owns it. I’m a huge believer in access for the public,” said Bradley.
Safety, funding concerns
The Fish and Game Department has several concerns about swimming at boat launches. First, they are concerned about the safety of swimmers in boating areas.
Increased traffic and safety concerns at boat launches would also require more staffing from an already underfunded department.
Lastly, the department believes it could lose $420,000 in annual grant funding if it allows swimming at boat launches. That federal grant funding is earmarked specifically for expanding recreational boat access. The department believes they would lose that funding if boat launches turn into swimming areas.